Biddeford manufacturer, once one of country’s fastest growing, to lay off 40 in closure

Posted Dec. 18, 2013, at 1:45 p.m.
Last modified Dec. 18, 2013, at 7:45 p.m.

BIDDEFORD, Maine — A Maine company that only a few years ago was named one of the country’s fastest growing manufacturers has laid off 40 workers and will be closing its doors after 34 years in the business, according to a recent document filed with the U.S. Department of Labor.

Flotation Technologies, founded in Biddeford in 1979, manufactures flotation devices for the offshore drilling industry and other marine-related industries.

Layoffs at the company were revealed in a federal petition for job retraining services that a state employee filed in late October on behalf of 40 displaced workers. According to the document, the “worker separation date” was Dec. 1, 2013. When asked, “Is the firm or any part of the firm closing?” the petitioner answered, “Yes,” and gave the date of Dec. 31, 2013.

Julie Rabinowitz, a spokeswoman for the Maine Department of Labor, confirmed the information in the petition and said Wednesday that the entire business will be closing.

Messages left with Al Marquis, Flotation Technologies’ general manager, and Dan Cote, the sales manager, were not returned as of Wednesday afternoon. A receptionist at the company would not comment on the layoffs or closure.

Only five years ago, Inc. magazine named Flotation Technologies the 27th fastest growing manufacturer in the country. At the time, Flotation Technologies employed 80 people and had $13.4 million in revenue, a 367 percent increase from its 2004 revenue, according to Inc. magazine, which annually compiles a list of the country’s 5,000 fastest growing private companies. While it was in the top 30 in the manufacturing sector, Flotation Technologies ranked 1,006th overall.

The layoffs were blamed on foreign competition and “overcapacity in the marketplace,” wrote the petitioner, an employee of the state’s Rapid Response team, which travels to business locations that have suffered large layoffs to provide support to the laid-off workers. “Trelleborg in Europe … and Balmoral in Scotland … are competitors and have reduced pricing to a level that Flotation Technologies can’t compete with,” he wrote.

The petition asks the U.S. Department of Labor to provide job retraining benefits to the workers under the Trade Adjustment Assistance program, which is reserved for U.S. workers who lose their jobs due to foreign trade. The labor department has approved the petition, according to Rabinowitz, which means laid-off workers will be eligible for job retraining and employment placement services. Individual employees must apply to the state labor department to access the services.

Flotation Technologies is not locally owned. In 2008, a Houston, Texas-based oilfield services company called Deep Down Inc. acquired the company, according to an archived news release. As recently as 2010, Deep Down invested in expansions at its Biddeford subsidiary, adding a 20,000-square-foot rotational molding facility, according to another news release.

However, the company is currently owned by AFGlobal Corp., a Houston-based company that serves the oil and gas, power generation, aerospace, transportation and industry segments.

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